A lot changes in 25 years

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By Beth Russo

A lot changes in 25 years. Back in 1994, we were watching OJ Simpson in a white Bronco on CNN. Highland Brewery had just opened up in the basement of Barley’s

Members of the Lopez family, owners of the first Women Build house.

Pizza. And a group of women attorneys decided to sponsor the 1st Women Build house built by Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Fundraising flyer from the first Women Build House in 1994

The first Women Build house in Oakwood.

In 1994, the home cost $40,000 to build, and Buncombe County Women Attorneys took the lead in raising funds and providing volunteers to construct this home.

When they were done, the first Women Build house became the Lopez house, home to four generations of women.

Today, local women are still struggling with housing challenges. Imagine living in a rental where the landlord refuses to address the rodent problem. Or fix a leaky water heater, leading to monthly bills of $400. Or having to move your 3 children into your bedroom, to reduce their exposure to black mold.

This is the situation that Quintania Gregg found herself in. Employed full time with CarePartners, this mother of 3 children felt stuck with living in a substandard home because finding another apartment with a monthly rent that she could manage was almost impossible.

She applied for Habitat homeownership, and was approved to purchase Women Build House #14.

Gregg Family

Gregg Family

Once again, the Buncombe County Women Attorneys stepped up to be part of the solution to her affordable housing crisis. They’ve committed to raising $10,000 to support the construction of this home.

BCWA raising money at Rustic Grape.

A few weeks ago, they gathered at The Rustic Grape, a women-owned wine bar in downtown Asheville. After conversation and beverages, the attorneys met Quintania and heard her story. A few days later, construction started on the 14th Women Build house – and the future home of the Gregg family.

The BCWA are in process of raising funds, and look forward to a volunteer day on the site in June. Attorney Susan Russo-Klein of Roberts & Stevens says, “Buncombe County Women Attorneys are proud to support the wonderful work Asheville Habitat for Humanity does to provide affordable housing to families in our community.”

The 14th Women Build home will be completed near the end of 2019. Quintania looks forward to the day she closes and receives her keys, and is grateful to be partnered with women who care deeply about the housing problem in our community. Thank you Buncombe County Women Attorneys and The Rustic Grape!

Asheville Habitat Accepts Environmental Excellence Award

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By Andy Barnett, Executive Director

“What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”

― Henry David Thoreau, Familiar Letters (1860)

Asheville Habitat doesn’t think of itself as an environmental organization, so it came as a little bit of a shock to receive a 2019 Environmental Excellence Award from Asheville Greenworks this spring.  Our understanding of a safe, healthy affordable home is so intertwined with the notion of a “tolerable planet” that it goes unnoticed and unremarked.

Like most of the social justice solutions our community seeks, affordable housing and environmental stewardship are not competing interests. They are “yes, and” solutions. For example, your furniture donation to the ReStore diverts waste from the landfill AND builds affordable homes. When Habitat builds a new home, achieving high energy performance standards reduces our community’s energy use AND saves the homeowner money. Replacing an obsolete heating system in a home reduces the energy demand from our aging housing stock AND it means that an elder in our community can age in place safely and with dignity.

I am grateful for this award as a reminder of the impact of our choices, and a reminder that the best solutions solve multiple problems. As one of many like-minded businesses and organizations advancing environmental stewardship and sustainability in our community, I’m honored that GreenWorks bestowed Asheville Habitat with an award this year.

 

Photo by Angela Wilhelm, Citizen Times

A empty field to 21 homes, a thriving community

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Asheville Habitat is excited to announce the completion of its first neighborhood in South Buncombe- a 21-home community in Arden. Preliminary infrastructure began in the fall of 2016 and the last family bought their home, Student Build #4, in April of 2019.

Proud Recipient of the Parsec Prize

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Parsec Prize Winner 2019 Logo

We are thrilled to be one of nine non-profits to receive the Parsec Prize from Parsec Financial in 2019! Other winners were: OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling, Food Connection, Working Wheels, Asheville Art Museum, Susan G. Komen Charlotte, Arts Council of Moore County, Conserving Carolina, and Senior Services

The Parsec Prize was started in 2005 by Parsec Financial in Asheville, NC. The purpose of the Parsec Prize is to help local non-profits further their missions and improve our communities.

Asheville Habitat plan to use the funds to increase our capacity and expand our Home Repair program, a critical program that preserves existing affordable housing stock and enables low-income homeowners to remain in their homes as they age.

 

We’re thrilled to announce…

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We will open a second Habitat ReStore in Weaverville in late summer 2019! The ReStore will lease the space currently occupied by ACE Hardware who is moving across the street. Though smaller than the flagship Asheville store, the Weaverville store will offer much of the same merchandise – used furniture, housewares, appliances, building supplies, art and more. There will be a donation drop-off lane and plenty of parking. Hours will be 10am-6pm, Tuesday through Saturday.

“We are bursting at the seams, and have been looking for quite some time for an ideal second location. We are thrilled to have found this perfect site in the northern part of the County and look forward to being part of the Weaverville community,” said ReStore General Manager, Scott Stetson.

One of the first Habitat ReStores in the country, the Asheville Habitat ReStore opened in 1990 on Biltmore Avenue where it remained for thirteen years. After a major renovation of the donated Pearlman Carpet warehouse, the ReStore settled into its existing site at 33 Meadow Road near Biltmore Village in 2003. Today, the Asheville Habitat ReStore is a leader among 900+ Habitat ReStores nationwide, garners annual recognition as best Used Furniture Store (non-profit) in the Mountain Xpress’ Best of WNC, and has become a destination for shoppers across Buncombe County.

Details about a Grand Opening celebration will be forthcoming. Stay tuned!

Garland Walker Helps Habitat Meet Growing Community Need

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By Sydney Monshaw

Every Wednesday, the Home Repair team knows that rain or shine, Garland Walker (pictured above, R) will arrive at the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity office ready to spend the day serving the families of Buncombe County. Along with his coffee mug and lunchbox, Garland brings with him a steadfast commitment to building strength, stability and self-reliance. For 5 years, this Core Volunteer has spent every Wednesday helping to provide Home Repair clients with affordable solutions allowing them to remain safely in their homes. The Home Repair operations would not be the same without Garland, the repair team’s first Core Volunteer.

Garland and his wife Ellen moved to Asheville in 2013 from Juneau, Alaska where he worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Throughout his career, Garland worked as an attorney in varied capacities from the military to private practice, finally spending the most time managing federal fisheries with NOAA in the North Pacific. When he arrived in Asheville as a recent retiree, Garland was eager to find volunteer opportunities that would be enjoyable and would show a visible difference in his community. That’s when he found Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Initially, Garland volunteered building new homes, and on his third volunteer day, he was assigned to work with Joel Johnson (pictured above, L) in Home Repair. He found that he really enjoyed this aspect of Habitat’s efforts. Garland’s volunteer day has always been Wednesday and often it was just he and Joel working on projects for Home Repair clients.

The thing that Garland values most about working on the Home Repair team is its mission. “Home Repair clients are generally older and economically challenged. Home Repair is a “home saver” because it allows them to maintain and improve their homes either at a small fraction of the local market cost or sometimes at no cost. Their gratitude for our work is infectious. I go home each Wednesday grateful for the contributions I made and more conscious of the many personal blessings I have.”

Garland has also built lasting relationships with the Home Repair staff that he not only views as team mates, but as friends. Every Wednesday he faces new challenges that require varied problem-solving skills and he enjoys the fact that no two projects are the same. He is excited to learn new skills that he can use on his own home, too.

Garland recently received his golden hammer pin in recognition of 5 years of volunteer service. He is proud of this but views the accomplishment as a testament to the people, environment, and mission of Habitat that makes volunteers like him so willing to support the organization with their time, talent and financial means.

Over the last five years, Garland has seen many changes on the Home Repair front.

“I’m glad to note the recent ramping up of Home Repair staffing and funding. For this, I credit the excellent leadership of Joel, now the Home Repair Manager, along with the support of the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors. While building new homes is incredibly important and an original core mission of Habitat, the need for home repair assistance among the elderly and economically disadvantaged is steadily growing in this area. Despite the great work of the Home Repair team, there still aren’t enough local resources to meet the growing demand for this type of service.”

Garland recognizes the value of his volunteer work in the larger picture of the Home Repair program. As this arm of Habitat service grows, Home Repair is in need of more volunteers they can count on every week. To learn more about volunteering with Home Repair, click here, and if you are able, consider committing one day a week as a Core Volunteer. The Habitat team is grateful for all of the volunteers, like Garland, who help to bring the growing vision of the Home Repair program, and Asheville Habitat, to life.

 

 

 

 

Jane Schwarz: Making the World a Better Place

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By Zoe Trout

After spending “38 long hot years in Houston, Texas,” Jane Schwarz and her husband, who is an artist and musician, moved to Asheville. They were attracted to our City’s artistic community– and because being a vegetarian in Houston made her an anomaly.

While living in Texas, Jane volunteered on the construction site at Houston Habitat for Humanity. Now, you can find her at the front desk of Asheville Area Habitat’s administrative office on Monday afternoons answering the phone, greeting visitors, and taking payments from home repair clients. Jane enjoys interacting with so many different people and being close to the mission. She loves the excitement of people when they turn in their applications for homeownership because they have worked so hard to get to the point of application and they have so much hope for their futures. Jane always says, “Good luck! I hope you get to buy a house!”

Jane’s energy and enthusiasm is contagious and she believes in the impact of the Habitat model to lift up families through homeownership. “I think Habitat’s mission crosses political lines; and it’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up.”

Her passion for volunteering doesn’t end with Habitat. She is also a member of P.E.O. International, a women’s organization that raises money for scholarships for women all over the world; and she organizes neighborhood clean-up days in Fairview.

Creativity drove Jane’s professional past. She worked as an Interior Designer and at one point owned her own interior design business. She sold commercial wallcovering for part of her career, calling on architects and designers who would specify her product in large commercial jobs like schools, hospitals, and hotels. And, Jane loves remodeling projects of all sorts.

She continues to feed her creative spirit here in Asheville, by storytelling, regularly participating on The Moth, and taking a writing course through the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNC Asheville.

Jane always has a smile and a kind word for anyone who walks through the door and her creativity brings a burst of energy to our office.  When asked why she volunteers, she notes that her children are grown, she no longer runs her own business, and she finally has the time to get more involved and to give back more. With a deep belief in our mission, Jane said, “I think the world is a better place because of Habitat.” Well Jane, we think the world is better because of you! Thank you for sharing your time, talent and creative energy with us.

 

 

 

Planning for the Future with Brattan Gelder

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By Jeff Paul

Owning a home is a BIG deal. And purchasing that home can be a stressful and confusing process. Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s Homebuyer Education program seeks to demystify the process and empower families to become successful homeowners. As part of required sweat equity, future homeowners spend close to 50 hours in the classroom learning about home maintenance, predatory lending, real estate closing documents and procedures, community resources and much more. One of the highlights of this program is the opportunity for each family to meet with local estate planning attorney, Brattan Gelder (pictured above).

Brattan has been volunteering with Asheville Habitat since 2011. Several times a year, he meets with the Homebuyer Education class to discuss the basics of estate planning. He carefully reviews the terminology, talks about the importance of having such a plan in place, and fields questions from families. Additionally, Brattan generously offers to each new homeowner (pro-bono) the opportunity to meet one-on-one to establish a personal estate plan. Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not only for the wealthy. With complicated laws related to passing property and possessions to relatives, everyone can benefit from having an estate plan, especially homeowners.

As Astrid Andre reported in Shelterforce, “Since the least wealthy Americans have a larger share of their wealth tied to their homes and would be most impacted by home losses, enacting measures to mitigate such losses may have greater effect in preserving and maintaining wealth in these communities. Proactive measures like estate planning—placing safeguards during and after the lifetime of an owner, such as creating wills and trusts—can be a helpful tool for the preservation and transfer of real estate assets in some low- to moderate-income and minority communities.”

One new Habitat homeowner commented, “It meant a great deal for Brattan to help me with my estate planning. He has given me a sense of security to know that I have a plan put in place. I am now confident that my loved ones will have less worry with this plan. An estate plan is something not everyone thinks about or has, so I feel very fortunate to have one.”

In 2016, Brattan expanded his engagement with AAHH by joining the Board of Directors and most recently, he joined Habitat’s Homeowner Selection Committee. When asked what motivates him to volunteer with Habitat, he offered the following:

“There are several characteristics of Habitat that distinguish it in my mind from other charitable organizations. My favorite thing about Habitat is that Habitat doesn’t simply give anything to anyone. Future homeowners don’t receive gifts; they earn everything. Habitat identifies worthy partners who make lifelong commitments to themselves, their families, and their communities. Through hard work and cooperation, people from disparate backgrounds bond together to form strong neighborhoods and broader communities. The assistance that Habitat provides enables hard-working, honest people to live and work in a supportive environment, where their talents and skills can flourish. That stability allows Habitat partners to make a beneficial contribution to their communities. Habitat homeowners work diligently to make a better life for their families. In turn, a strong work ethic and determination are imparted to the next generation, who will recognize the value of working hard and giving back. Simply stated, I don’t know of any other organization that makes such a meaningful impact in the long-term well-being of the community. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

Thank you, Brattan for sharing your time and expertise to help families build – and secure – a better future!

 

 

 

Kaaren and Lynn: A Meaningful Connection

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By Marty Steinberg

“The art wall is the first thing you see when walking into the upper showroom and Lynn and Kaaren keep it looking amazing,” according to ReStore Upper Showroom Assistant Manager Brian Haynes.

The proof is in the pictures. Or the paintings, or the movie posters or the occasional metallic wall sculpture. If it’s hanging on the ReStore art wall, ReStore volunteers Kaaren McNulty and Lynn Kirby probably put it there.

“I was looking for something meaningful to do so I offered to help with the art wall,” said McNulty, a longtime ReStore volunteer and an artist who also donates original paintings to be sold at the ReStore. “This is my first volunteer job and I love it. I feel a connection to the people I work with.”

Kirby, a glass artist, says she has made lasting friendships by volunteering at the ReStore. “I look forward to coming in to meet people and do something meaningful that helps the community.”

They both have personalized aprons that were embroidered by Kirby to wear for their volunteer shifts. Both women also have suffered a recent loss and they say that volunteering at the ReStore helps them personally.

McNulty, originally from Detroit, worked as a corporate meeting planner in Atlanta before retiring to Western North Carolina with her husband. “He died a year ago and volunteering at the ReStore has been even more helpful to me since that happened,” McNulty said.

Kirby, who spent a 20-year career with IBM, is from upstate New York and received a job transfer to Texas where she lived with her husband before they lost everything in their home to a wildfire. “We heard about Asheville and I came out in 2012 with my husband, three dogs and a cat,” she said.

Both volunteers agree that ReStore Volunteer Coordinator Carrie Burgin helps make volunteering at the ReStore a positive experience. “Being on a set schedule helps as well because you know when you’re expected and you can plan around it,” said Kirby. Both women generally put in two four-hour shifts each week.

They both enjoy engaging with shoppers, staff, and other volunteers when they work behind the counter, after the art wall has been neatened and replenished.

“When you talk with someone who is doing sweat equity and they tell you what a difference a new home will make for their family, it’s incredible.” Kirby said. “And what a blessing it is to hear that people will be able to stay in their homes because of Habitat’s home repair program.” added McNulty.

For now, both of them plan to continue “hanging” around the ReStore.

 

If you’re interested in volunteering at the ReStore, please email Carrie Burgin.